Getting to thePoint
Since its beginning in 1997, Kentucky Community and Technical College System has expanded rapidly. With 16 colleges, 67 campuses, and a central System Office, KCTCS employs somewhere around 10,000 people.
As you can imagine (or maybe know!), it takes a lot of work to keep everyone in sync. Over the years, we've used various tools and technologies to help with this--email, document sharing software, etc., with varying degrees of success. The result has been a bunch of what we like to call "silos"--collections of information, documents, and systems that live independantly of one another. Not suprisingly, this has often led to duplication of work, difficulties in communication and barriers to collaboration.
What we've needed is a unified solution that would bring all of these "silos" together. That's where thePoint comes in.
In a nutshell, thePoint is a platform. That technically means that it is a software system that provides a standard set of tools and services that can be utilized for lots of different purposes. But on a deeper, more important level, thePoint represents a revolution to how we approach our work. It breaks apart the "silos" which we previously used and brings seemingly disparate pieces of information, processes and structures into a place where they can begin to work together. ThePoint provides a medium where the work that we do every day can be integrated into everything else that is happening across KCTCS. This means, of course, that we can better fulfill our mission to provide outstanding services to our students, our communities and our employees.
What Does it Mean to Me?
While the possibilities are endless (and will continue to expand as it grows), thePoint means you’ll have less trouble working on files with co-workers on another campus. It means you will be able to find that procedure you're looking for more quickly--and you will be sure it's the most recent version. It means you will be able to request leave, complete a timesheet, or submit expenses online, with quicker turnaround time, more accurate data entry, and less hassle.
And it means every KCTCS employee will be able to go to a central web site to obtain accurate information and helpful services.
At the outset, thePoint will help us with three major areas:
- Collaboration - ThePoint will allow us share files, manage meetings, communicate via discussion boards, and much more--all without leaving our desks, printing tons of duplicate documents, or relying on elaborate e-mails that can clog our inbox.
- Document management - ThePoint will not only let us share files, but it will allow us organize them better, improve our ability to search, and give us powerful tools to review, approve, and publish them. Additionally, information will be more up to date and relevent as lifecycles of documents are captured and followed.
- Services - ThePoint will help us organize content designed for employees only. That means business procedures, HR information, and more. More than that, thePoint will allow us to move many of our existing processes online, starting with many of the popular employee forms first. Rather than printed forms that waste paper and encourage errors, thePoint will feature online forms with electronic signatures and approvals, instant notifications, and easy review.
And in case you’re wondering, training on how to use thePoint is quick, easy, and will be provided in a variety of formats. There is also a robust support system in place so if you ever run into trouble, we’ll be here to help.
Wrapping It All Up
As you can see, thePoint holds great promise. We are going to start small and focus on the infrastructure so that we have a solid foundation upon which to grow. Initially, we'll be providing only a handful of services, forms, and collaboration sites for leadership teams and larger groups. But don't worry; as the infrastructure is established, we'll quickly begin to see the benefits of this new approach to how we work (and we'll let you know about it!).
What about sensitive information? How will that be protected?
That'll be easy at first. We're simply not going to collect, store, or transmit that sort of information. Some of our forms will probably start using employee ID numbers instead of socials, so we'll try to make that information easy for you to find. When we really must have private information, we'll make forms that will accept as much of your data as possible before asking you to print them out and hand-deliver your private information to the appropriate place. As thePoint grows, we'll find ways to capture this information too, but that's work best saved for later.
If you're not collecting sensitive information, does that mean that other information isn't secure?
No, not at all. We'll be implementing best practices in data security for thePoint, which we're confident will keep all our data safe and sound. But we want to be extremely careful about super-sensitive private information. We'd rather take our time and do more than what's necessary for that sort of data.
I have lots of questions! Who can I talk to?
Start with your local Web Services Peer Team member. If you don't know who that is, just ask around. It'll be a good chance for you to meet someone who can provide a lot of help.
If you have specific questions about a project, or new ideas, or just general questions, use the "Contact" link on this site. That will go to the System Office Web Services Department. If we can't get you an answer right away, we'll dig one up for you.
So when thePoint launches, are all our paper forms going away forever?
We wish! But no. Think about what a form represents. It's not just a document to be filled out. It's one part of a business process--a tool used to document one stage of what can be a very complex operation. To move a paper form to the Intranet, we have to understand that entire operation, including things like whether someone needs to approve a form, who has authority to do so, where the form goes after it's completed, etc.
You can imagine then that moving a form online to a paperless format is a big deal, even for fairly simple forms. So for the initial launch of thePoint, we've identified a handful of our most commonly used forms, and we're going to try to make all of those available to varying degrees. All the other forms we have will be moved to ThePoint, but they'll still be the same old download-complete-and-print files you're used to.
Over time, we'll get more and more forms converted to a web-enabled format, but that will take a while.
How are students going to use thePoint?
They're not. Not right away anyway. For the near future, our work will be all about the employee Intranet--ThePoint. Once we have that fleshed out and humming along nicely, then we'll take a look at the need for student and partner Intranets (or Extranets, as the case may be).
I keep hearing about SharePoint? Is that the name of the Intranet?
Nope. The name of the Intranet is "thePoint." SharePoint is the software platform that we're using to build the Intranet, but that's all it is. We don't want folks to think that SharePoint is the name of the game--or the Intranet. The Intranet is what we make it. It's a living, active, thriving community. It's a source of information, collaboration, and communication. It's not about software at all. It's about you.
Is thePoint just for my college, or just for the System Office?
It's for all of us. There will be content and services that everybody across the system shares--like the ability to fill out a leave request online--and there will be content that's geared toward your college or department specifically. There will even be some content that's geared specifically to you!
So while we'll all be sharing the same basic Intranet, it'll also be unique for each one of us who visits. The intranet is a set of tools that is designed to help YOU do YOUR job. When you think about it, the intranet isn't for your college OR the System Office. It's just for you!
Will the Intranet replace...
Yes, eventually. Document sharing is just one feature of the Intranet, but it's more fully-featured and more customizable than DocuShare. Ultimately, we'll be moving all our viable document collections from DocuShare to the Intranet. The transition will be a phased one, though, and we will be working with document owners and process owners to ensure that the move goes smoothly.
No. Not at all. Nor would it ever want that job! The Intranet may eventually tie into and support PeopleSoft in some ways, but it will never replace it. PeopleSoft is enormously complex and it stores and processes all of the vital business data for our employees and students.
If you think of PeopleSoft as the engine that powers the KCTCS vehicle, then you can think of the Intranet as collection of some of the smaller parts of that vehicle that handle driver and passenger comfort - like maybe the seats, the heater, and the air conditioning. These are completely separate parts than the main engine and the vehicle will continue to run without them, just like PeopleSoft does not need the Intranet.
But comfortable driving and riding conditions make for a better ride in the vehicle, which in turn helps to make the entire process of running the car more efficient and effective. The intranet will be able to provide tools to support, for instance, data entry into PeopleSoft. It may provide tools that will allow for easier compliance to business rules and processes - from form processing to document and records management. Or it may simply provide on-line places for teams to tackle problems and issues and document their progress.
- Our web sites?
No, the Intranet won't replace our web sites. It will however provide a new home for lots of the content that is currently on our public web sites--content that is intended for employees rather than students and other external groups. That'll make our web sites easier to use for those audiences, while making internal content and services easier to use and manage for all of us!
- Other systems?
The Intranet really isn't intended to replace most of our current systems. We have good tools for specific purposes: BlackBoard for e-learning, DSS for reporting, PeopleSoft for operations. The Intranet is simply another set of tools that allows us to serve different purposes for a specific audience--employees.
The KCTCS vehicle has lots of pieces and parts - from the PeopleSoft engine, to the DSS dashboard and instrument panel, to the intranet "comfort package" set of tools. Like all of our systems, the Intranet will be related in some ways to all the others--but will not be doing those functions or replacing those systems.
What IS thePoint anyway?
That's easy. ThePoint is the KCTCS employee Intranet, a private web site--accessible only to KCTCS employees--that features online tools like document sharing, common web-based workspaces for departments and teams, and online forms you can fill out on the web and submit electronically. You will be able to interact with the intranet in many more ways than by just using a web browser.
You will be able to use familiar tools like Word, Excel, and Outlook to read and write information on parts of the intranet. For instance, saving and editing Word documents shared on the intranet can be done from directly within Word without ever opening a web browser.
Task lists associated to you on the intranet can be tracked using your Outlook program. Calendar information can be shared easily with your teams and departments. The intranet, then, is simply a collection of tools that will allow for greater communication and collaboration among employees, which will in turn lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness of the work we all do.
Why don't we know what's going to be available? I heard we're moving to completely Intranet-based operations tomorrow!
Whoa! Easy now! Here's what's happening: We've completed the planning phase for the launch of thePoint. That launch is going to consist of:
- New information sites for Business Services and HR where you can find procedures, forms, and useful data. More of these "info sites" will become available over time.
- A limited number of "team sites" which provide for greater collaboration and communication. More and more of these team sites will be created as we go too.
- A handful of completely online forms that will make some of our most common tasks a bit easier. Imagine completing a leave request and having it approved without ever having to print out a sheet of paper or worry about whether your math is right. We'll move all the core KCTCS forms to thePoint at launch, though only a few will be available completely online at first. The others will be switched over during the next several months.
- Some new communications sources for employees, along with a few other surprises. Stay tuned!
Keep in mind that thePoint is a platform. That means launch is really about putting an infrastructure in place. Once that's done, we'll be able to build loads of useful tools and services on that platform. But let's start with the basics first and see where we can go from there.
How will we know what's coming, and when?
First, keep coming back to this site. We'll post updates as often as possible.
Second, keep an eye on your inbox and on Today's News. We'll be sending out periodic notes about the Web Services Initiative, and thePoint, so stay tuned!
When will my College/Team/Department/self have a site on thePoint?
ThePoint is intended for all employees at all locations. It is a work in progress and will continue to evolve and grow. It started in a basic form with the broadest departments and leadership teams. Planning and training must occur before new sites are created and deployed. Owning and maintaining a site requires the commitment of site owners who must go through specific training. Also, requested sites must fit within the broader navigation and structure of thePoint. As for complete "college level" sites, these probably will not be developed. Your college site address is the same as everyone else's with information and links specific to your college on thePoint's home page. You will have access to and follow the same departmental information as all employees, so the departments list and links will be the same across the enterprise. Security permissions are in place for specific and local teams so only you will see your teams.
Will I have to remember another username or password for thePoint?
Not at all. The technology that we use integrates with other Microsoft software so well that you use the same username to log on to thePoint as you use to get your e-mail or log on to your computer. In fact you should only be asked for your username and password one time and if you're connecting to thePoint from a college computer you may not have to log in at all!